DON'T: Care about the tours.
On one beautiful spring day, my school had a concert. I got drunk on our quad and bonged a beer while some washed-up '90s alternative band played in the background. I think it may have been Sugar Ray. After I finally completed the bong, I looked up, holding back the slightest urge to vomit, and noticed a tour group had stopped five feet in front of me. The parents looked horrified. A couple of high school bros, though, had that look that you see in pretty much every college movie ever when a younger kid comes to visit his older brother. The one that's always accompanied by that conversation: "This is CRAZY, man!" "Nah, dude. It's just college."
There was nothing special about our drinking or even our school hiring Sugar Ray to come play the school. (Sorry, McGrath.) But the awesome scene on campus—from the girls in sundresses, to the perfect weather, to the music, to the casual debauchery—could have been more than enough to swing the high school bros' decisions. Which is an unfair bias, because the week before, they would have visited when it was snowing and everyone looked pissed off about midterms.
Don't place a lot of stock in what you see on tours. They screw up your decisions, and you always want to go to the school that you toured first, or, better yet, got drunk at first. You should even feel comfortable applying to some schools without visiting them.
DON'T: Worry about the big size of a school.
College is much smaller than you think. Freshman year, your social circle is people you interact with in class (very few), people who live near you in your dorm (a few more), and people you meet out (a number that shifts constantly based on the largely incorrect whims of your alcohol-soaked memory). Your friends and acquaintances grow each year, but ultimately, unless you're Van Wilder, you're not going to know or want to know a massive number of people just because you go to a big school.
Basically, if the idea of going to a place with 50,000 people gives you pause, remember that it can be as small as your antisocial tendencies want it to be. Plus, the bigger the school, the less chance you have to run into THAT girl you never want to see again. You dog.
DO: Keep the party scene in mind.
Unless you're going to Liberty University, you're going to be able to find a party. But what kind of party scene are you looking for? Exclusively Greek? With an emphasis on the bar scene? Freshman friendly? It's really not hard to find this information, and if you want to be socially active, you should know what you're getting yourself into. If you don't want to go to a Greek-heavy school, don't go to Vandy or many of the other Southern schools for that matter. If you can't take the thought of going to a school without an active ganja scene, go to Colorado, or whatever. Because, like it or not, this does matter.
An addendum: Don't be that asshole who talks about what fraternity he's going to join on Day 1 of school. Really, don't do this. Just keep your findings hidden, Bond, and go with the flow when you get there.
DO: Resist the message board temptation.
There are many, many message boards that claim to have current students giving the lowdown on what their college is like. These boards are heavily, heavily trafficked by high school juniors and seniors. The problem, though, is that none of them paint an accurate picture, because, let's be honest—who, really, cares enough to go on College Prowler and forcefully tell a 16-year-old what the top five fraternities are of his school?
I guess these boards tell you what SAT score to shoot for... But I can't see many uses besides that.
DO: Consider how your personality will take to this school.
Colleges like to say that you go there to change your personality for the better—that you're matured and molded by the campus, the faculty, and your esteemed peers. The reality, for the first couple of years at least, is that the freedom and opportunities it provides will bring out your better qualities and really, REALLY bring out your worst qualities. If you eat shit in high school, you will gain 30 pounds in college. If you're an irregular gym guy in high school, you will not go to the gym in college. Without any of the constraints that kept you acting like a normal human being when you're 17—7 a.m. wakeup times, sports teams, etc.—it's up to you to know how to keep yourself functional. J. Camm went south because he knew he was lazy and wouldn't get out of bed to go to class in cold weather. A friend went to a military school because he knew he couldn't handle literally always having a guy willing to get blacked-out with him. Another went to school at the beach because he knew the weed would be cheaper there. (I guess that applies.)
Know yourself, and choose accordingly.
DON'T: Go to the same school as your parents, friends, or girlfriend.
This should go without saying, but no one really cares that your alma mater parents made sure you were a ball boy for the basketball team when you were 8. In fact, they probably think you're a douchebag. And if you're going to a college to be with your girlfriend, I hope she somehow hooks up with Johnny Football. Even if he has to fly out to meet her.
DO: Go somewhere you can major in something you're good at.
This is only going to get more important for guys in high school now, but the only majors that seem to be paying off are STEM majors. FUCKING LAME, I know, but it's important to note: If you're good at science now, you'll probably not suck that much at it in college, so pre-med isn't a bad idea. If you're good at math, there's plenty of engineering spots for you. And if you're just okay at math, there's economics.
If you're not good at any of the above subjects, fine. Get a decent GPA and make sure you know people by the time you graduate. But the bottom line is that it's going to start to get harder and harder to take jobs in desirable fields unless you've shown some sort of competency in numbers. If you're good at them, don't just immediately turn your back because you burned through "The West Wing" on Netflix and you're now convinced you're the next Josh Lyman.
DON'T: Worry about your decision after it's done.
90 percent of all people who go to college fucking love it. Once you make the call, don't question it. Because you're a lucky bastard that you've got those four years in front of you.
Post-Sad appears every Tuesday.